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Write On! Fiction Prize Honorable Mention, Ages 13-18

by Vichar Lochan

You wake up at precisely 6:33 A.M. on Monday. You’ve fallen off the bed in the night, just like yesterday and the day before that. That’s worrying– it’s becoming a pattern. Your night terrors are getting worse, aren’t they? You lie on the floor, blearily blinking up at the ceiling.

Exactly two minutes and forty-two seconds later, you stand up and walk out of your room. You’re going to the bathroom, to brush and use the toilet. You’ll be back within four minutes, at the most.

Three minutes and twenty-three seconds later, you walk back into your room and open your cupboard, to pick out your clothes for the day. Five and a half minutes later, you walk out of the room again, clothes in hand.

It’s really a terrible room. Garishly bright and kitschy, it’s the kind of room you’d expect a five-year-old white girl with blonde hair and pigtails to have. It’s like a super-sized Barbie Dream House, from the pastel desk-chair set down to the turquoise bed and white polka-dotted bedsheets. It throws you into sharp relief against it; your all-black wardrobe, black lipstick and once-dark Vans all stand out sharply against all the pink, the color of the mistakes you made as a child.

It’s been precisely twenty-four minutes since you woke up, and you wander back into the room fully dressed, looking vaguely lost. You turn around abruptly at some noise, dreadlocks flying, and run full tilt out the room, looking panicked. That’s worrying, too– is there an intruder? Have your parents started fighting already? It’s not even seven in the morning, for goodness’ sake. It’s concerning, but it’s probably only your obscenely picturesque mother calling you for breakfast. Good–she’s finally noticed you haven’t eaten in forty-three hours, another worrying thing. You’re too thin to begin with, if you start skipping meals you might just become so skinny you disappear.

You come back in ten minutes later, pale under your tan. Are you alright? Did something happen? Apparently it’s nothing, because you pick up your colossal backpack and walk quickly out of the room. You’ll have to be faster if you’re to catch the bus; it leaves at seven-fifteen, which is in eight minutes. You come out of your house, check your watch, and start to run.

As you round the corner, you see the bus. It doesn’t appear to be leaving for a few minutes, so you slow to a walk.

When you reach it, you climb in and look around for a seat that’s free of occupants. There’s one right at the back, by a window, so you walk to it quickly with your head down. The others in the bus stare at you, wondering why you’re walking so fast– running almost. It’s not as if the seat will disappear, right?

You sit down, and the bus starts with a jerk. You aren’t ready, so you’re thrown forward, and hit the seat in front of you with a dull thud. The others titter mockingly, and you start to dig around in your bag for your headphones. When you find them, you put them on and start the music, vaguely noting that it’s Bach.

Twenty minutes later, the bus squeals to a stop outside your school. It’s the classic depressing jail-like structure, painted white on the front and back and sides, with a large green sign proclaiming to all the world that it’s Greenweather Public School, home of the Wasps. The students swarm around the doors of the bus, so you wait for them all to leave. Finally, you manage to make it out of the bus and walk slowly into the school.

Your classes start at eight-fifteen. It’s currently seven past eight, so you have just enough time to get to your locker, get your books, and get in class. The crowd doesn’t part for you like in movies, so you push your way through it, moving much too slowly.

Someone steps on the end of your shoelace, and, slowly, it unravels. Someone else steps on the trailing end of the shoelace, and you fall over, almost in slow motion, right onto the shoulder of the unsuspecting girl in front of you. She yelps an insult and steps aside hurriedly, leaving you struggling to regain your balance in the midst of the welter of students.

Eventually, you right yourself, and giving reaching your locker up as a lost cause, shove yourself toward your class.

As the heavy wooden door swings shut behind you, I pull myself out of the bushes where I am crouching and release a heavy sigh. You aren’t my responsibility anymore; not for another eight hours until school ends.

You are a girl, and I am your Watcher.

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Vichar Lochan is a 13-year-old girl from Chennai, India. She is a voracious reader and writing enthusiast. This is her first published work. This story’s inspiration is Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, one of Vichar’s favorite authors.

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